Through the student ambassador role, I applied to work alongside a creative writing lecturer to deliver a two-day workshop based around the Imbolc festival to the year 5 children of Marsden Junior School. It was a fantastic experience which gave me an insight not only to working with this age group but also how to put a picture book together as a collaboration. It was interesting to hear about how the story would be planned and broken down across the twelve spreads. Obviously, this was simplified for the target audience and the children were asked to create a book which consisted of six pages, a front cover and a back cover.
Some participants of the biennial Imbolc festival arrived in full costume and performed a dance between the green man and jack frost. The children were asked about the story and from this they were asked to come up with their own. It did not have to directly relate to the story of Imbolc. We covered creating the protagonist, considering an antagonist, the problem, the drama, the twist, and the solution. I helped with the character building and talked through and problems the children were facing with their story. At the end of the first session they had a six page plan, their character card for their protagonist and were equipped with the knowledge of what they had to consider so they could go away and write their stories ready for the next session.
For the second session, I was asked to deliver a ten minute demonstration of what to consider when designing a book cover and Sara was asked to do the same regarding the blurb on the back. I broke my delivery down to some key elements; simple design, don’t overcrowd and don’t give too much away; use of colour, what it says and what it does; type, leave room for it within the design. I used other picture books to reinforce what I was saying and asked questions to keep the children engaged.
The children were very keen to be hands on in this session and their hard work and enthusiasm was notable. There were a couple of children that were dragging their heels and distracting others but once they had created something of their own they were proud. I noticed how one of the boys was extremely anxious about his drawings, I spent some time with him to help him and to try to break down the idea that things have to look exactly like whatever it is you are drawing. I went through the picture books available to show him how the characters did not look realistic and his drawings were fine as they were.
I came away from the sessions wanting to engage more with this age range and I will make contact with schools once I leave the MA. I do realise that schools are struggling with their budgets at the moment, but after various conversations with people about their children wanting to be involved in more art in their schools or hearing that some teachers don’t deliver art classes, I do think it’s important to make contacts to try to help with this.
Today we held fifteen minute presentations to our peer groups talking through our practice from Practice 1 through to Practice 3. After each presentation we talked our way through the Learning Outcomes to mark ourselves against a traffic light system; Green= working well and are on track; Amber= room for improvement across certain aspects of your practice; Red= there are aspects of concern and need to be addressed over the rest of the unit.
Across the learning outcomes I was marked between green and amber to acknowledge that I was aware that I need to push on with certain areas. I found the feedback interesting. I understand where my work sits and could sit, what it could be seen as and used for, and that I have different aspects to my practice. In relation to demonstrating a coherent body of work, it was suggested again to play with more materials and think about convenience. If I am creating an editorial piece I would not have time to work with clay, at least not to the point of considered ceramics, alternative material could be economical. Again, as one of the ceramic technicians mentioned, the question arose of why I have to follow the ceramic process while making my figures and sculptures if they are purely for display. Why do I have to take my sculptures to the kiln; can I not have materials protruding from the clay; do I have to use underglazes? The truth is, I don’t, I could take advantage of not being a ceramicist and work to the way that suit the needs of my work. Although I do enjoy making the sculptures and would like to invest in a kiln, this could be something that is put aside until after the MA. I wanted to take advantage of the equipment and the knowledge of the ceramic technicians throughout my course but I do see how this could limit the potential of my work if I keep concentrating on the process and rules.
I spoke of how I was worrying that I am spending a lot of time engaging with activities through the University such as the homework Club, workshop assistant roles, applying to exhibit, and establishing connections with peers and tutors who are working or interested in similar subject matter or processes. I believed that this was taking me away from pushing on with my visual language. My peers drew the conclusion that my work and involvement in these projects all connects to my interest and empathy with people and this is a fundamental part of my practice. I should consider this as a role I offer, be it a facilitator to art workshops for children and adults, working with the community to provide art therapy, working with people in regard to communicating their experience, or, providing a connection between people. I have always been dismissive of my role as a hairdresser, however, I can see how this connects with my role as an artist and illustrator due to my connection with people. My peer used the term Visual Anthropologist. This highlighted a contradiction in my personality, I have a desire and an artistic need to connect with people, but I have to be alone to create my work.
I determine myself as an Illustrator yet I am aware that my practice has allowed me to take different paths. This may be due to lack of a better term for myself and it is something to ponder over the duration of the year. I am an illustrator; an artist; a visual communicator; a facilitator; a provocateur. Am I usuing Illustrator as a conveniet umberella?
Going forward I will prioritise my experimentation and scale and set myself deadlines. I need to use my time more efficiently and this may lessen my anxiety if I see myself achieving small targets.
Notes for my personal records of the Amaco Velvet Underglazes. The individual images are of the underglazes unfired. The underglaze was applied on one side with a sponge and wiped off and applied again to test textures and on the underside the underglaze was applied with a brush and multiple layers of glaze was applied to one half of the clay to test opacity. The collective images are colours after firing. All are unglazed which is supposed to intensify the colours even more.
Images of wall charts are taken from the glaze and oxide induction and are of various clays with oxides and glazes applied and fired.
Tittymama has Spectrum Underglaze applied and fired. I decided to paint over this with the Amaco Velvets and fire again. I prefer the look of the Amaco and the texture of the figure after firing twice has changed and looks more worn.
December 18th my last Monday and was the week before the Christmas break and the first week of specialism. During the assessment period the students were asked what area they would like to specialise even though the college is very keen to allow students to branch out and either do different projects from different specialisms via their own specialism or for them to seek tutorials from tutors of other specialism. The tutors are wanting to give student creative freedom.
The Visual Communications specialism delivered a brief to create a quick zine telling everyone something about yourself that people wouldn’t necessarily know. Students spoke of different things like hobbies and clubs they were involved in, unusual collections they had in their home, and things they collected. At the end of the three sessions they were to have their zine printed and for it to go on display in the studio. The point of this quick brief was to give the student a deeper understanding of what constitutes as a zine; how they can be presented and what form they can take; what they can include or address; to allow them to consider presentation, layout, and print; for them to feel they have accomplished something by seeing their work transform and go to print; for them to be prepared by considering all the components to compose a zine and take this forward and engage with a three-week Zine project at the beginning of next term.
I feel like I shouldn’t have been available for this session. December is a very tiring month with my workload doubling and juggling this as well as university, placement and very few days off I had hit a wall and could not give 100%. I should have predicted this and felt disappointed with myself and my performance. I will hopefully make up for this throughout the year as I plan to engage with the students again mid-way through their specialism to see how they have developed and again when it comes to the writing their FMP proposal and again for their exhibition. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the tutors and students of the college and believe I have gained an insight to what is expected of you as a tutor, the pressures and problems that come along with the job role, and more importantly I have appreciated being able to work with students that are producing meaningful and engaging work.
I had been sending emails to numerous organisations and groups and posting on social media trying to connect with women and encourage them to create their presence among the Tittymama Army. I received a message from an Art and Design Foundation Diploma student of MMU asking if we could meet after seeing my post on MMU Feminist Society and we arranged a workshop for the Tuesday the following week. Three students of the course met with me in the MA studio where we sat for an hour and a half building our figures. The students were all around 18 years old and freely spoke of their experience in society. One felt she had issues with the way her facial features looked and felt this along her being slender she created a bird-like sculpture. This was surprising as I really did not see the her like this. I am aware that I cam using the pronoun, her, and this may be incorrect. The student mentioned being LGBTQIA+ but I felt it was not appropriate for me to ask them to elaborate on this, I wanted the contributors to divulge only what they were comfortable with; therefore me using this pronoun is my own assumption. She also spoke of how she was challenging gender issues in her work for her course by filming and documenting men carrying out routines and actions that are typically expected of females. I would be interested to see her project once it is completed. She spoke of how difficult the males around her have found it when some are highly protective of their masculinity. The other students both spoke of their battles with eating disorders and other mental health issues such as anxiety. One mentioned some body positive role models she follows on social media and how these have had a positive impact on how she sees herself and how she feels that she is at the stage where she is willing to go and speak about the issues with her doctor to see if she can be referred for help. The other student mentioned as well as suffering with Bulimia she was LGBTQIA+ and was unable to tell her guardians this as they would not understand. Her anxiety and Bulimia is high at the moment, she didn’t feel ready to speak to someone about it. She did not eat any cake that was brought to the workshop. Simpler issues were spoken about (if that is the correct phrase to use), for example, questioning the removal of body hair, promiscuity, make up expectations, breasts being different sizes, etc. All agreed that they felt it was harder to dismantle stereotypes and expectations with older generations and the younger generations were a bit more accepting of people for who they are although there is still an issue of toxic masculinity and protecting this is the root of the issues that people are facing.
After posting the images from the workshop on social media a friend asked if I would hold another short workshop a couple of days later. I made some quick and simple posters to present in the lift of the art school and shared the poster online. Three MA students come along to build their presence and others got involved during the session or came over to see what the workshop was about and talk about it. I am hoping this will be more of a successful way of connecting with people. I am sensing that it is a sensitive, and very big issue, that people may be wary of being involved, feel like it is too miserable a subject, or feel it is offensive that I am trying to reach out to people of colour and people with disabilities. Where I am trying to be inclusive, I fully understand that calling out to people could be offensive. It may be best that people become connected through seeing people engage with the workshops.
I found the second workshop a little slower to engage in conversation about the issues the army is addressing. When people did open up, reoccurring issues were spoken about such as body image and not having mirrors in the bedroom, dress sizes, family tensions, not believing in marriage and how it isn’t necessary, sexual harassment and cat-calling from a very young age, being reduced down to breasts, to trying to promote the acceptance of small breasts. Although the workshops were in themselves overall quite cheerful despite the content, the sorrowful situation was that all the experiences were not shocking, I could either relate to them myself or they were an experience I have known others to have experience or I have read about people documenting the same experiences. This is also part of the purpose of the workshops, it’s the community, it’s the conversation, it’s the power in numbers that can help you realise that it’s not just you who feels this way.
It was the second week of assessment this week. I spent most of the day observing how the tutors went about getting the most out of the students. A lot happens through the conversation as it seems they are still unsure what is expected of them. A lot of them say more than what they have written in their sketchbooks so they are advised to add this to their evaluations. I was surprised by the work of a student I felt was very reluctant to speak to me much during the Protest and Survive project. I believe this now has a lot to do with her confidence. Her work involved LGBTQIA issues and were very deliberate with her approach. The photographs were interesting and her point was obvious and effective. She had considered colour and composition, and shape well. Her slant on the body project was also very interesting and different to what I had come across. It seemed like she did not regard her work being of a high standard and was a little dismissive of her photography experiments, I felt she communicated very well.
Another of the students I sat in on for assessment was a student I had already talked with about her anxiety issues and a previous attempt at University. She was working at a high standard in her Textile practice; I would say high Merit/Distinction. She explored texture through her work and on one project was designing a skirt that represented the cells of breast cancer. She was working with this awful disease by trying to make something beautiful and raise awareness in that way. She was also experimenting trying to make a belt using cell and growth like forms that she had researched. She was anxious about moving away and wanted to apply to a University she could commute too. She seemed to touch on various feminist issues with her work and yet interestingly, she did not connect with feminism and was quite averse to it. I believe she stands a good chance of being called to interview for the Universities she applies to. She is meticulous in her annotation and evaluation and shows potential practically. She is also unsure as to apply for Fine Art or Textiles and I think it would be interesting if she had a foot in each park.
I gave my consent forms to the students whose work I had photographed and those I have been involved with throughout assessment.
Assessment began today and it runs for the next two weeks up until Christmas. The bus strikes effected the attendance again today but you recognise the same faces who make it in regardless. Today was a brilliant opportunity for me to catch up with the students and see their body of work. I was hugely impressed with their level of commitment, their willingness to experiment and their genuine interest in their chosen issues, as well as the social environment around them. I could constantly hear discussions going on with the group engaging in talks about the news and the Scandinavian way of life and their attitude to equality. I also had to opportunity to be shown the work of students on other elective projects such as Textiles and Fine Art. I am overall impressed with the amount of work produced. As you can expect, there was the odd student who didn’t turn up with all of their work or students who talk about what they are going to do next, but obviously they can not be marked for this. I found it invaluable to experience how the tutors deal with different students. There are some who experience difficulties with communication and have different ways of processing information. The students were made aware of the support that was available to them such as help with dyslexia and mental health support. They were also notified that there are other ways of documenting if writing is proving difficult. If it is more effective for them to document by recording themselves speak either by recording or by filming, that is acceptable. It is better than having it all stored up in their heads but not having anything to produce for the tutors and eventually, the external examiner.
I found it challenging to engage with a couple of the students, possibly down to my inexperience. One never really wants to show me anything and doesn’t really speak much. I can tell by the sketchbook evaluations that this student is very intelligent but I find it difficult to read the student. I am unsure whether they know they are intelligent and know what is expected of them so they give enough to demonstrate this but there is a lack of enthusiasm, or even interest. This also could be down to the fact they are shy and introverted and I am misinterpreting them. Another was finding it extremely difficult to cope with being told they had not done enough. They struggled to break down what has just been asked of them to compose an action plan of what was needed from them over the next two weeks. All the student could focus on was that they had not done enough and they had missed so much out. I’m not sure why they did not engage with the process that we had walked them through during the Monday sessions but now they were finding it difficult to go back and fill in the gaps. They had not done any artist research or evaluations and when I suggested going and sourcing some artists to look at or artists that work with the same materials they had used, they were reluctant to. They said it didn’t feel genuine. They wanted to use the time to collate a list of things they needed to do and that was all they could focus on at the moment.
I spoke with a couple of the students who were very open and honest about their life experience and their dealing with anxiety and the support they needed, and also how some were dealing with mental health issues within their work and how they were finding it therapeutic while they hoped to help people deal with their own issues through their work. I found their openness very positive and hopefully as each generation comes through, the stigma will lessen and it will be as accepted to talk about these issues as it is physical health issues and health care will be just easy to access.
I spoke with Jason and Jennie about being involved with the course throughout the year and beyond my expected time-frame. I will either come in throughout the middle of the course and again at the end or possibly a week every month, we will work it round the timetable of the next few projects and their FMP. It is mutually beneficial to me and the students and I would like to experience the change in the students as they settle into specialism and their confidence grows. I would also like to be involved in the proposal for their FMP and the end of year show.
I picked up my Tittymamas from the glaze and oxide induction and they are hideous! Ha! As I first thought, the colour of the natural oxides isn’t suitable for the work I am trying to produce and the shine to the glaze is something I want to avoid. I will experiment further with under-glazes and stained slip. I feel way out of my depth at the moment, I have no idea what I am mixing, if I am using enough under-glaze, etc, etc; but I guess this is part of the process. For these I used red iron oxide then covered with a shiny transparent glaze. This still alters the colour of the oxide. You can see the colour of the oxide slightly where the glaze didn’t touch. I am actually surprised how much the glaze balanced out the colour of the oxide. I had deliberately applied more to certain areas, I didn’t want it all one colour. This is something to bear in mind in the future. On the other I used black nicol and only applied the glaze to parts of the figure. I like the way the depth of the colour on the oxide varies depending on how much was applied or wiped off or watered down. I think the matt finish is more suitable to what I am doing. There is a matt glaze I will try before ruling it out completely.
After a talk with Lou Bones from the AOI, I think I need to see how I can make editorial and publishing work with the clay so that I can correctly identify clients who may be interested in my work. I do feel like the kind of work and subject matter I am dealing with at the moment is not going to be commissioned work and rather more personal projects/ gallery targeted work. I am arranging a tutorial with Ian from BA Illustration to talk more about professional practice.
Today we launched the new brief Protest and Survive. It is a series of week-long briefs spanning three weeks illustrating awareness or a protest around a global issue, a national issue, and a local issue.
Today’s session was composed of giving the students the tools they needed to produce and consider their work. We asked the students to produce a mind map a number of issues they are concerned about and after forming groups of three and four they were to discus the issues for ten minutes. The issues that arose were war, poverty, climate change, deforestation, sexual harassment, terrorism, the refugee crisis, and animal cruelty. They were given an hour to research in more detail two of their issues and asked to produce five facts each to deliver to their peer groups. Some naturally noted the statistics and were considering making their imagery around these and another had noted that he had found there were more than one issue at play surrounding his chosen cause that he had not originally considered. This took us up to lunch time and without yet without giving the students any visual references, the group continued to be engaged and energetic with their ideas.
The afternoon began with my presentation on Hannah Hoch as a way of suggesting other ways of producing protest art. If I am honest, I should have prepared it more thoroughly to make sure the links and information were coherent and the point would be communicated but I was a bit wary spending so much time on this again for the work to not be used. the presentation led to other visual examples such as stitch, posters, banners, badges, t-shirts, satire, performance and fashion, and collaboration with other disciplines. I had a could have conversations afterwards regarding her work and how they never originally considered collage but a student felt it may be appropriate for her work. Throughout the session we prompted the students to consider colour, what they represent, how they can be used as semiotics, how they make people feel. Some still wanted to use black and white… and portraiture. Other conversations were considering how their chosen subject made them feel, were they angry, or sad? Some were confused and scared. Ready for tomorrow they need to equip their toolbox with visual referencing, words, and slogans. Earlier in the afternoon they were given ten minutes to produce ten ideas. Towards the end of the days we asked them to re-order their ideas after our discussions on colour, mode and approach, and evaluate how these effect how successful they now see them being.
I’m looking forward to hearing about the work that was produced. One of the girls was thinking about using herself as a performance to demonstrate against sexual abuse carried out by the church, another was thinking of using plastic to make a piece on climate change. This already shows they are thinking of the best medium to communicate rather than automatically working 2D or in their usual aesthetic.